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Harry Brennan

Birth place or City of origin: Sheridan
State of origin: WY
Last known City:
Last known State:
Start/Birth date: 1880
Death/End date: 1922

Harry Brennan was a true rodeo pioneer who has been called “the father of modern bronc riding” and one of the top cowboys of the old west. Born in Sheridan, WY in 1880, Brennan became one of the first professionals to participate in competitive events and by 1902 was crowned “champion rough rider of the world” at the Denver Horse Show. The Denver Republican’s newspaper account of Brennans’ award winning ride merits repeating:

In the last ride Brennan was pitted against the wiles of an ugly bay bronco that possessed every movement in the complex repertoire of the bronco. Although the horse bucked him continually in every way, Brennan held his seat as if he were sitting in a parlor chair. Every muscle in his body seemed to be loose and his arms were not extended rigid over the horse, as in the case of the majority of the riders, who strained every nerve to attract the attention of the judges. Then again he manipulated his spurs in a way that rendered it practically impossible for his horse to pitch him off. At one time the horse fell over on him and crushed his foot. The injury failed to make him wince, and he continued to master the brute that was using all its nervous energy.

The following year (1903) Harry joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show on a tour to England but returned to the States and his greatest love in 1904 when he was proclaimed the undisputed World Champion Bronc Rider in competition at Cheyenne Frontier Days. The Wyoming Tribune of September 2, 1904 describing the triumph as:

Harry Brennan on Innocent Babe gave one of the best performances of the afternoon, riding his animal to a standstill in spite of the desperate attempts of the outlaw to unseat his rider.

The next year (1905) Brennan was back with Col Cody, this time joining the Wild West Show in Paris and within two years becoming Buffalo Bill’s Chief Rider. He continued to travel the United States and Europe with the show and was a top cowboy with the Congress of Rough Riders.

Harry was a kind man who made a popular and colorful champion. It is reported that once, after winning a championship belt and $200, he cut the belt in two and halved the cash with his friend, Tim Minor, who had finished a close second to the champ. Brennan was instrumental in working-up the first set of rules for Saddle bronc Riding (known as Cheyenne Rules) and many modern day riding styles were developed from his unique way of spurring.

Harry retired from riding in 1909 and died 13 years later. He was always a credit to his craft that changed the course of rodeo bronc riding forever. He was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1979 where his championship belt, won three-quarters of a century earlier, is proudly displayed.


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